Finding Support and Negotiating Identity: An Analysis of the Structure and Content of Newbie Posts and their Elicited Replies on Five Pro-Eating Disorder Websites

Cara Williams, Sarah Riley

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Abstract

Building on work that has identified the difficulties ‘newbies’ (people joining an internet forum for the first time) have in negotiating acceptance onto eating disorder related forums, the present study reports a discourse analysis and a descriptive statistical analysis of the structure and content of newbie first posts and the responses to them. Analysis of posts from five English language pro-ana sites, collated over the course of one month showed that all newbie posts were responded to, with 57 % percent eliciting further discussion between the newbie and other members. A reoccurring pattern for successful newbie entry was identified across these forums despite their relative diversity. Successful postings involved giving enough information about themselves to elicit identification from another member, explicitly requesting support or advice so as to give established members a role of guide as well as guardian of site membership, and writing in a way that reproduced the sites’ behavioural rules and ideological framing of eating disorders (e.g. a problem requiring recovery or a lifestyle choice). The study also highlights a dual role for these websites as both offering community support and a platform for ‘cyber pickup’ for those seeking a partner in their disordered eating.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReset: Social Science Research on the Internet
Volume1
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • online
  • eating disorder
  • newbie
  • discourse
  • identity

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